"Second century Christians...continued to recognize that the teachings of Jesus--not Paul--were the central tenets of Christianity." (Bercot, Theologians (2010) at 51.)


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Positives About Paul

There are many exhortations in Paul that are edifying. Not profound like the words of Jesus, yet simple and poetical and true. There is no denying this.

The question becomes whether these positives should influence us to give Paul an inspired status to make these truths that much more important. Cannot we just enjoy these verses without investing Paul an authority which appears clearly dubious and directly refuted by our Lord Jesus in numerous passages? Without constantly giving Paul the holy mantle that the "Bible" speaks when Paul speaks, implying a greater authority than can be validly proven? 

Hence enjoy these passages from Paul like a fine wine....it tastes good in small and innocuous doses. But to take all of Paul's words as true represents to drink to excess and an extreme. It will make you ill and sick, as it is filled with untruths and inadvertent blasphemies. (See our article "Paul and Blasphemy.") So drink in Paul carefully, in small amounts, and in the safest alcohol content -- passages that are inoccuous  and self-evidently true, yet spoken eloquently. But no more than that.

Here are verses I still like from Paul's writings:

“correctly handle the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).

“each should test his own actions” (Gal. 6:4) and “test everything, and hold on to the good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

Other favorites are:

 “In [Christ] who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything” (Phil 4:13).

 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21, RSV).

“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity” (Rom 12:1-2, Phillips)

 “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13, RSV).

“If God is for us, who is against us?  (Rom 8:31-32, RSV).

 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16, RSVCE).

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:4-6).

"In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." (Philippians 4:6, ASV.)

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV.)

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want. (Galatians 5:16-17 NIV)

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3b-4, NIV.)

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands,that they may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28 NIV.)

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Col. 3:23

Satan knows how to mix in truth slyly with error using his dupe -- Paul. (See our article "Who Did Paul Meet Outside Damascus?") So don't be surprised when Paul utters self-evident truths and inspiring exhortations. Satan is a good poet. We cannot deny his character. If you don't let these verses  seduce you to accept untruths, you can appreciate the gold among the dross. 

False Positives in Paul

Here are verses that when compared to Jesus' words, are false positives -- misleadingly thought to be innocuous. However, in truth, they are adverse to Jesus' points:

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phillipians 4:11-13.)

This leaves open that one can hope to be "content in much" as a Christian. But Jesus said and warned the exact opposite in Matthew 8:20 -- and said even the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.

Seduction Away From Jesus

A perfect example of the danger of having affection for Paul's eloquence is you will be dismissive of Jesus' words on the identical point, even though stated just as eloquently or more so. Specifically, I am studying Crown Ministries program. In Howard Dayton's Life Group Manual (2007) at page 67 he has a section that reads, including the title:

1. Practice the Golden Rule

But Dayton does not quote the author of the Golden Rule under this section heading -- Jesus. Rather, Dayton then tells us the Golden Rule is in this passage: 

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3b-4 NIV

So Jesus' most famous words, that even non-Christians know as the Golden Rule, is unabashedly described as stated by Paul! Wow! The result of looking at Paul has been simply mesmerizing to so many that they don't see Jesus anymore. They just see Paul, and make him like a new Christ.